Season 2 of Homeland was pretty great... for about five episodes.
Homeland: The Complete Second Season
Following its barn burner of a freshman season, one that cleaned up at the Emmys, Homeland came out of the gate strong in Season 2, opening with a five-episode run that blew up the show's relationships and overall plot in eye-opening, mind-blowing ways. In fact, the season's fifth episode, "Q&A," is quite possibly the finest Homeland episode ever, one that puts Claire Danes' Carrie in an interrogation room with Damien Lewis's Brody, with the former lovers putting all their cards on the table, at last. Unfortunately, that installment also marked the beginning of a precipitous downward slide in the show's internal logic and plotting, which grew more and more ridiculous as the season progressed. By the time Carrie was chasing terrorist mastermind Abu Nazir (inexplicably now on our shores) through an abandoned mill, while Brody infiltrated the Vice President's personal quarters (on the dubious grounds that he really had to use the john) and made tortured faces at his Blackberry, Homeland was perilously close to becoming an out-and-out comedy. (And don’t even get us started on the ridiculous car accident subplot that gave Brody's irritating teenage daughter Dana more scenes instead of fewer). At least the finale redeemed the season somewhat, literally blowing up a key setting and characters, but we're still going into Season 3, which kicks off September 29, with trepidation rather than excitement.
Extras: Deleted scenes, a Season 3 prologue, Damien Lewis's personal video diary and two making-of featurettes.
Click here to read our full recaps of Homeland
Click here to see the Season 2 deleted scenes we most want to see
Supernatural: The Complete Eighth Season
Dean returns from his year in Purgatory and Supernatural returns from a mostly terrible seventh season to a slightly better eighth year. Highlights from 23-episode run include "A Little Slice of Kevin," which brings Castiel out of Purgatory as well, the vampire-themed "Citizen Fang" and "Feat of Clay," which pits the brothers against a golem (not the Middle-earth kind). On the other hand, Season 8 also featured one of the single worst episodes in Supernatural's run, "Man's Best Friend with Benefits," which manages to endorse both misogyny and bestiality with a plot that involves a male witch sleeping with his canine familiar, who occasionally walks around as a human. It's ugly enough to make you quit the show for good. If you haven't already, that is.
Extras: Commentary tracks on three episodes, un-aired scenes, a gag reel and three featurettes.
Click here to read our full Supernatural recaps
Castle: The Complete Fifth Season
Chicago Fire: Season 1
Though they're not really part of our regular beat, the general public apparently can't get enough of Castle and Chicago Fire. The Nathan Fillion-led ABC procedural crossed the 100-episode mark in its fifth season, a goal that Captain Tightpants and the rest of the Serenity crew could only dream of. The cases that Fillion's crime-fiction writer Richard Castle and his NYPD detective partner Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) solve in this batch of 24 episodes includes the mysterious death of a weather reporter, a murder on the comic book convention circuit (with numerous Firefly shout-outs) and how to proceed with their professional relationship know that they're personally involved a la Maddie and Dave. Season 6 kicks off on September 23, when we presumably find out whether Beckett responds yay or nay to Castle's surprise proposal. Now that he's only got one Law & Order series left on the air, Dick Wolf has the time to launch another franchise empire based around his firefighter-themed serial Chicago Fire, which became a surprise hit in its freshman season. A big enough hit, in fact, that NBC has already ordered a spin-off, Chicago PD, which will be debuting sometime later this season. Oz's Eammon Walker and House's Jesse Spencer are among the men and women who populate the show's Windy City firehouse, where all sorts of bland personal drama occurs in between flame-fighting. We're anticipating the launch of a third series: Chicago Coast Guard.
Extras: Castle features commentary tracks, bloopers, deleted scenes and three featurettes. Chicago Fire offers behind-the-scenes mini-docs and podcasts.
HBO tries to get in on some of PBS's Downton Abbey ratings action via Parade's End, a Tom Stoppard-penned adaptation of Ford Madox Ford's quartet of novels, published between 1924 and 1928. Internet phenom Benedict Cumberbatch plays the scion of a wealthy English family, who reluctantly marries a woman on his social station (Rebecca Hall), but pursues an affair with a rebellious suffragette (Adelaide Clemens) that threatens his standing in the run-up to the outbreak of the first World War. Despite its top-notch production values and impressive assemblage of on-camera and behind-the-camera talent, Parade's End is mostly a snooze, one that feels like the kind of draggy period drama that Monty Python so memorably spoofed in their classic skit, "Salad Days". On the other hand, Parade's End seems like absolute genius when compared to Phil Spector, David Mamet's apologia for the legendary music producer-turned-murder suspect. An impressionistic take on Spector's career and the Lana Clarkson murder, the telefilm gives Al Pacino plenty of scenery to chew while co-star Helen Mirren (who plays his defense attorney) wisely stays out of his way. Watching these pros act opposite each other is fun for a little while, but the overall message of Phil Spector is pretty risible.
Extras: Parade's End comes with an Elvis Mitchell-conducted interview with Tom Stoppard, while Phil Spector is bare bones.
Also on DVD:
Right on the heels of its BBC America airing, Luther: Season 3 collects the four-episode junior year of the British cop drama that Idris Elba somehow finds the time to shoot in between making movies. Tom Selleck and Donnie Wahlberg continue to save up for their retirement fund, as CBS's Friday-night ratings champ Blue Bloods: The Third Season continues to thrill pensioners the country over. Still one of the most popular sitcoms on the air in its sixth year, The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Sixth Season recruited such geek-friendly guest stars as Buzz Aldrin, Stephen Hawking (or at least his voice) and LeVar Burton. Finally, Lifetime's army wives continue to turn our nation's military bases into a hotbed of mischief in Army Wives: The Complete Seventh Season.
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